Michigan State coach Tom Izzo appreciated what he saw towards Iowa and needs the Spartans to make use of apply time the subsequent few weeks to work on little things.
Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press

EAST LANSING — Kenny Goins flashed to the middle of the free-throw line, caught the lob and swung the ball around to face the basket.

Behind his clear goggles, Michigan State’s senior ahead seemed to his left, then right, then in the paint. He stood on his tippy-toes to toss a move to Xavier Tillman, who posted up his man, pinned him underneath the ring and then spun to his left for a layup.

“It was straightforward pickings for both of us,” Goins stated. “I’d sort of just throw it up, and (Tillman) received layups left and proper.”

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It was late in the first half and a scene that repeated itself throughout the Spartans’ 90-68 win over Iowa on Monday. And it was all about the in-game adjustment.

Goins delivered five of his seven assists to Tillman and Nick Ward on high-low passes for easy scores around the rim. That big man-to-big man passing is something that is starting to become a bigger part of No. 10 MSU’s offense, one that can help compliment the Spartans’ ability to shoot outside.

“It was kind of like that we saw the high-low was working in the game,” Tillman said. “And when I started scoring, we were like, ‘Oh, OK, well let’s go to that.’ … We didn’t come into this game thinking we had to do this, do this and do this. It was something we saw in the game and attacked it.”

Goins, Ward and Tillman combined for 59 points on 21-for-27 shooting and 17-for-23 free throws as MSU improved to 7-2 on the season. The Spartans travel to Florida on Saturday (noon, CBS), where coach Tom Izzo hopes they can continue their renewed interior scoring ability.

“All three of them, those stats we had in that game won us the game,” Izzo said after practice Wednesday. “But all three of them did a lot of good things between them. And all of them had big nights. That’s encouraging.”

The high-low pass has, at times, been an integral part of Izzo’s team. The early 2010s teams featured plenty of it between Draymond Green, Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne.

Though this year’s team remains thin on post players, with freshmen Thomas Kithier and Marcus Bingham Jr. learning on the job in brief stints, Izzo may have two of his best big man passers in Goins and Tillman since Green and Nix. Both have the ability to shoot from the free-throw line extended, which opens up Ward and the other post player in the paint with the ball up top.